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K-State Today

February 6, 2015

Parenting against video game addiction

Submitted by Katie Allen

With video game addiction on the rise, parents are urged to take action.

Recent studies have shown that video gaming has surpassed watching television as teens' favorite activity to defeat boredom, but this trade-off could have harmful consequences.

K-State Research and Extension youth development specialist Elaine Johannes said there is a national concern about the addiction to video games, especially among the young adults. Johannes, an associate professor of family studies and human services at Kansas State University, referred to data collected in youth risk behavior surveillance surveys from 2007 to 2013 that shows an increase in video game use between both boys and girls, and the use is more than occasional.

In 2011 about 24 percent of teenagers used video games three or more hours a day, while in 2013 that statistic went up to 34 percent. She warns that parents should know when youth have free time and limit the free time they spend playing video games.

"There is a sweet spot," Johannes said. "Less than three hours per day, based on the game, may be developmentally positive. Between three and five hours, we begin to see some issues related to their social development and maybe even some physiological effects. But, with more than five hours a day there is real harm and potential danger."

The American Institute of Pediatrics recently published a study, completed in 2011, that tracked electronic gaming use and psychosocial adjustment — meaning how well adjusted that teen is to be with friends, to work within groups, to navigate through school well, or to get and keep a job.

Johannes said the study mentions some positive things that come with game use when it's under three hours a day. The positives might include allowing the child to establish friendships, play challenging games with friends, and begin feeling comfortable around the technology or around games if they are not familiar with them.

However, she said once you get into the range of three to five hours a day, negative psychological impacts are more apparent. If the child is playing a game filled with a great deal of violent action, it can disrupt how the brain functions and the child's ability to concentrate.

The real danger of video game addiction comes from spending five or more of a teen's waking hours every day video gaming — not necessarily playing violent games but just gaming in general. Johannes said this could lead to lower satisfaction with life, lower satisfaction within relationships and what concerns her most, an increase in suicidal thoughts.

Read more about parenting against video game addiction in this K-State Research and Extension news story.